In 2015, when Jordan Mack committed to Virginia, the head coach was Mike London. He was a safety at the time, listed at 6’3, 194 lbs. He was on the tall side for a safety, but it was obvious he needed to add strength. By the time he arrived on grounds, Bronco Mendenhall had taken over for London in Charlottesville. And bulk up Mack did. In his NFL Draft profile, Mack is listed at 6’3, 241, up nearly 50 pounds from his weight as an incoming first year.
Right out of the gate Virginia fans got a glimpse of what Mack could do. Five games into his career — and Mendenhall’s tenure — Mack came off an edge blitz and landed a huge hit on Daniel Jones that forces and fumble and helps seal the win. It was the first Virginia road win in conference play since 2012.
At that point, if you’d suggested that Mack should move from the outside linebacker position to inside linebacker, you might’ve been laughed out of the room. A converted safety with the cover skills, an ability to rush the pass, and the physicality to hit like that screams OLB.
Mack made the move inside, however. It was partly because of a need, but also because the speed that he showed off the edge and in pass coverage translated very well to a 3-4 ILB. In a 3-4, the ILBs still get to rush the passer. This season Mack led the Hoos with 7.5 sacks, and totaled 13.5 sacks in three seasons as an ILB.
Mack was one of three Cavaliers — alongside Bryce Hall and Joe Reed — to get an invite to the NFL Combine. Although he was unable to participate as a result of his injury, the experience in Indianapolis was invaluable to Mack.
“That was huge from the standpoint of that they were able to verify my numbers and height and weight, they were able to speak to me and put a face to a name and see what kind of individual was, and also from a medical standpoint see that my ankle was healing properly and ... see that I’m fine and healthy and ready to go,” Mack told the media last week. “So from that standpoint, it was huge, and I was able to get in front of NFL scouts and coaches and really show them what type of individual I was.”
As a former DB, it isn’t surprising that Mack has good straight line speed. He could’ve used the opportunity to show off his agility in the 3-cone-drill and shuttle runs. He also could’ve shown off his ability to play both ILB and OLB, which would give him valuable positional flexibility.
Mack was a finalist for the William Campbell Trophy, dubbed the “Academic Heisman”. He’s a smart guy and a hard worker. That’s an important trait at ILB, which requires a lot of different reads and moves and also often requires making defensive calls and assignments. Mack was a real leader for his team, and the NFL loves that in its young players.
An immediate comp for Mack is his former ILB-mate, Micah Kiser. Kiser did garner an invite to the combine and ran a 4.66. Mack probably has more pure speed than Kiser, though he’s not as strong as Kiser, especially at the point of attack. That’s a bit surprising, since Mack is bigger than Kiser. Kiser measured 6’0, 238 at the combine, but being shorter actually gives Kiser an advantage due to a lower center of gravity. Kiser also has longer arms, which matters because he can get to the ball from further away.
Kiser was also more productive in college than Mack. Some of that was due to scheme, some of it was due to depth on the defense and some of it was due to injuries suffered by Mack. Injuries are actually a big issue for Mack. He had ankle surgery at the end of his senior season and missed the Orange Bowl with the same issue that kept him from participating in the Combine. That could be enough to convince an interested team not to draft him.
“Well, I’m pretty much all healthy right now,” Mack told media members about his overall health and continued with thoughts on being unable to work out for teams. “That hurts because you don’t get to show your health and actually talk and speak to teams as much as you would have wanted to, but it doesn’t really hurt too much.”
Mack has a chance to be drafted very late in the draft. If not, he’ll sign as a FA with somebody. If he’s healthy, he’ll have a chance to make a team as a special teams player. That is a role he could excel at, with his speed, quickness, and attitude.
NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein thinks he’ll be a 7th round pick (or priority FA), but was complimentary of his skills. “Bright linebacker with good instincts and production as a four-year starter,” Zierlein said. “He lacks the size and pop to be a will-imposer at the point of attack, but he has adequate straight-line speed as a run-and-chase outside linebacker in an even front.”
How to Watch
Here is the full schedule with times and networks, per the NFL:
- Thursday, April 23 (8-11:30 p.m. ET): Round 1 — ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio
- Friday, April 24 (7-11:30 p.m.): Rounds 2 and 3 — ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio
- Sat, April 25 (12-7 p.m.): Rounds 4 through 7 — ABC, ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio
Stick with Streaking the Lawn this week as we continue to look at the NFL Draft and the players that might hear their names called.